I plan a 7000 miles ride for next year. I hate camping and hauling weight, so I decided to plan on motels instead of camping (a bit tougher on the budget), so no panniers, no packs, just a small beam rack and the camelback. This way, I can go with my Cannondale R-5000, instead of the typical heavier touring bike.
I am currently wondering what to expect for maintenance and spare parts. How far can a slim tire go before it is time to change it ? What about the chain and gearwheels ? Are there long-lasting alternatives ?
Sounds like fun! Don't worry about the durability of your bike or its components; nothing needs swapping out for "long-lasting alternatives." Just keep an eye on tire tread, chain lubrication, brake pads, and so on -- and drop by a bike shop when you think it may be time for some service. As you gain experience, you'll be able to handle some or all of this maintenance yourself.
I'd very much encourage you to complete a few more modest tours before this big one -- can you swing several three-day weekend shakedown cruises at least? That will help you gain confidence in the idea that your bike is not going to fall apart and leave you stranded.
I think much depends on the quality of your gear. My Michelin Axial carbons lasted a good 3,000 miles, and even then I think I could have got some more miles out of them, but tyres are one place I don't like to skimp on safety. I did have some Conti ultra 3000's -dumped them after about 600 miles as the sidewalls were toast and had big cuts in them -all on the exact same roads too as the Michelins -so you see there can be substantial differences in longevity. I'd assume you'll need at least one, possibly two changes of tyres for 7,000 miles.
Gears? Well lubed (there's you long lasting alternative right there!) and a drivechain should last you that long. The other area of concern would be brake pads and possibly cables -keep an eye on them. Again, that's dependent on the type of use and the brake pad manufacturer -Shimano's pads will last several epochs and will be dug up by archeologists in perfect condition in thousands of years time -but then again they won't stop you well either. I use Koolstop salmons that are soft compounds, but I'd think they'd last at least 4,000 miles and for the performance they give you and the cost, they'd be worth it for me for go through 2 pairs.
You might also want to keep an eye on your headset, but there shouldn't be any problem really. Just keep an eye on your bike and keep it in good order. If you aren't mechanically inclined a good thing would be to attend a bike maintenance class or something.
Carry everything you need to change a tire, including a pump and both a spare tube and a patch kit. Check every fastener on the bike and take the appropriate tool to tighten as many of them as possible. This usually means a screwdriver with several bits and a few allen wrenches. A spoke wrench is a good idea. Spare batteries for your lights. An extra credit card and a 20 in your sock. Sunscreen, bugspray, pepper spray and a few aspirins.
Highly recommend using some loctite blue. It's a thread-fastener that you drip onto your threads. It will prevent things from vibrating out. Good to apply when checking everything is tight. Particularly important on racks.
Oh I had those horrible conti 3000's too, after 6 flats in 4 rides i took them off my bike.
On a separate note, instead of a beam rack, I've been looking at the Tubus Fly rack (www.thetouringstore.com) - lighter than a seatpost rack, 40 pound load limit, can also buy adapters if your road bike doesn't have brazeons. Only apparent downside is the cost. I haven't used these, but my other tubus racks are excellent.
For those of you who CC tour long distances... aren't you worried about not making it somewhere to get a hotel? I haven't figured out how to deal with that... and don't have the patience or desire to plan my tour with that level of detail.
The credit-card long touring trip requires some more planification before starting. There is less room for improvisation. I plan to follow AdventureCyclist network routes and use their maps. I am currently doing a town by town listing with services, distance between potential stops, etc.
Every night requires a planning of options for the next day. A cell-phone with Internet capability is certainly helpful, even if coverage is sometimes limited for web functions. That's part of the adventure.
I have only credit-card-toured once, for less than two weeks, so I'm not an expert. But my impression is that you can get away with less planning, not that you need to do more planning. Basically, you just look at the map each morning, figure out what town down the road you're going to wind up in for the night, and call ahead for a motel reservation. (That was before cell phones, so now it's even easier!) You can usually find Yellow Pages in convenience stores that will give you a list of motels as far away as you're likely to get in a day on a bicycle.